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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Tuberculosis: 17 Questions and Answers

Confused About Tuberculosis Headlines? Get the Facts

How did Speaker get infected with TB?

That's not yet known.

Speaker's father-in-law is a tuberculosis expert at the CDC. Could Speaker have gotten TB from his father-in-law?

Speaker's father-in-law is Robert Cooksey, a research microbiologist in the CDC's division of tuberculosis elimination.

In a statement issued on May 31, Cooksey says he has never had TB and that his son-in-law's TB didn't come from hi m or CDC labs.

What tests determine whether a person has TB? Are those tests safe if you are pregnant or are trying to conceive?

"The tests are safe whether you're pregnant or are trying to [conceive]," says Hamilton.

"The most common test is called the tuberculin skin test, or PPD. That's where a tiny, killed piece of TB is put right under the skin and you see if your body reacts to it or not. There's a newer blood test called QuantiFERON that tells us about the same information. That test not available all over the place," Hamilton says.

Since tuberculosis grows slowly, people get a follow-up test about two to three months after their initial test.

How is TB treated?

"Ninety-five percent of people will respond to the combination of the four first-line drugs -- isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, ethambutol," Hamilton says.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is rarer and XDR TB is rarer still, affecting "a few cases per year" in the U.S., Hamilton says.

"But in other countries, it's really increasing," Hamilton says. "So it is true that it's not that far away. Our TB program budgets have been cut every year, and so we get less and less able to respond to this sort of thing."

Hamilton also warns that "if our regular TB cases aren't managed appropriately and aggressively, they can become drug resistant. While we don't want to engender panic, it's a real concern."

What about surgery?

Surgery may be done to remove damaged areas of the lungs if drug treatments fail for XDR TB.

Speaker got lung surgery on July 17 to remove parts of his lung affected by tuberculosis. The operation was performed at the University of Colorado Hospital at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., by John D. Mitchell, MD, chief of general thoracic surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital.

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